Administrators should keep track of how many gay students attend their universities and graduate on time, said a new report.
Researchers Shane Windmeyer, Keith Humphrey and Danielle Barker argue in a report for the American College Personnel Association that counting gay students is a moral imperative.
“In order for support services to become more prevalent and effective on campuses, additional data on the retention of LGBT students is necessary,” they wrote in the report. “Simply asking the question sends a strong message of inclusion and visibility.”
The idea is that universities will be able to provide better support for gay students if they know how many there are on their campuses. And colleges already record other personal information like ethnicity.
Indeed, some colleges currently treat sexual orientation like race. In December, the University of Iowa began asking students to list their orientation on their applications to the university, according to CBS News. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology asks prospective students to choose from the following options: lesbian, gay, straight/heterosexual, unsure, bisexual, transgender, another identify, or prefer not to answer.
But if universities want to take note of students’ sexual orientations, they should do a better job of explaining why, said Tammy Johnson, an admissions director at Marshall University.
“Otherwise, despite institutions’ best intentions, for future generations of prospective students for whom LGBT status will carry less and less stigma, the answer to ‘are you gay?’ on a college admission application is very likely to be ‘it’s none of your business,’” she wrote in a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Sexual orientation also differs from race in that it is unverifiable by university administrators, leading some students to lie about being gay on their college applications to seek preferential treatment.
Students pretending to be gay in order to gain admittance to top universities is a real phenomenon, wrote Johnson.
“College-admission consultants and high-school counselors I spoke with have heard of this happening, too,” she wrote.
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